Talking Is Easy, Communicating Takes Effort
February 11, 2020
When I was a kid, people in my family told me that I was glib. I could speak about anything. I used to think that was a compliment. I could say whatever I had in mind without sweating over the words. Over the years, this became the basis for a false belief- I thought I was a good communicator.
Talking and communicating are not the same.
Interaction with others takes the form of a conversation and there are 2 types of conversations.
One ,where I am just speaking/talking(I use the terms interchangeably) with no real intention beyond saying what is on my mind.
The other, where I have a clear agenda. I am trying to communicate something with an intention, to get a message across and extract some meaningful action, through the interaction.
When I speak- I am synthesising my thoughts and uttering words to convey what is in my head. When speaking or talking I am ME focussed. I am not thinking whether the message resonates with the person listening. Speaking is bit like that news channel playing in the background. The newscaster could be saying something. It does not matter whether I am listening to that or not.
I and my son arguing over a game of cricket is a great example of 2 people speaking. The intention is to be louder and more animated than the other. It does not matter whether the message is pertinent or not. Success is in whether I have “out-spoken” my son.
Communicating is a different ball game altogether. When I am communicating something, I am obviously speaking. Additionally, there is a bigger purpose at play . I have the responsibility to ensure that the message that I am seeking to communicate, is going across and it is acknowledged by the recipient.
When I communicate-
- I should be able to express myself cogently and in a tone and manner that is comfortable for the people or person on the other side.
- I need to take care to ensure that the message I convey is understood by the listener.
- I am able to influence the behaviour of the people listening to me.
I can communicate well only when I am very mindful. I have to think about what it is I wish to say, before uttering something. I have to organize both my thoughts and frame the right words so that the message is sharp and results in the action or outcome I desire.
Also, when I communicate something, silence and pauses are as important at the words I speak. Silence and pauses allow my thoughts and ideas to permeate through, when the other person is listening. It is not necessary to fill every void with the sound of my own voice.
Personally, I struggle with this the most. Saying something and letting the deafening silence take over- invariably i give up and say something.
Why is this so ?- Because talking is cheap. Its just a process of filling time and space with words. There is no effort required and it feels good. Talking is a bit like browsing social media mindlessly.
I wish someone had taught me the difference between talking and communicating when I was young. It has taken me almost all my adult life to figure this basic difference and make myself more effective when interacting with others.
When I communicate well , I create value. Obviously, to do anything that has value requires mindful attention , diligent effort and consistent practice. I have the intention to be a better communicator. I am now putting the effort to become skillful.